Batter's Up

I sat down in a chair in my new office at Laurel Park Wednesday afternoon, looked around for a little while and tried to take it all in. New laptop, old desk. A fresh pad of paper, dried out highlighters. My iPad on the corner of the desk, Frank Carulli’s old metal hangers on a shelf to my left. Bare walls stripped of whatever posters or pictures hung on them before me. The leftover tape and nails suggest there were quite a few.

My calendar booklet sat on the table to my left. As I struggled to find inspiration for this column, I picked it up and flipped through the pages of this past year. I landed on February 13, 2013, ironically enough, a Wednesday, too. The calendar read:

“MCOM 385: Watch movie and write 2-3 page paper.

MCOM490: Read article and write blog post.

MCOM 447: Write competitor analysis. Start on SWOT analysis.”

The words “study Friday’s card, meet with Frank Carulli, go to track and practice recording” were also jumbled through the pages. That was about seven months ago. I was preparing for my on-air handicapping debut at Laurel Park along with Ryan Fogelsonger, Dylan Smith and Jackie Savoye. I can honestly say I’d never been more nervous before in my life. But I got through it; We all did. I smiled at the memory.

I flipped though more pages, scanned the quotes written on the top right hand corner. You know, the generic, motivational words said by celebrities or important people in history. One spoke to me.

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – Babe Ruth

The quote made me think about this past summer. Not only on what I did, but also the people around me: family, friends, coworkers, trainers, jockeys, owners.

If trainer Ollie Figgins III was afraid of striking out, his filly Dance to Bristol would’ve never won the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga. She wouldn’t have danced to victory four weeks later in the Grade 1 Ballerina either.

If Dance to Bristol’s jockey Xavier Perez was afraid of striking out, he wouldn’t have proven that you don’t need a multiple graded stakes winning jockey to ride a perfect race at Saratoga. He wouldn’t be three-for-three in stakes races at Saratoga either.

If jockey Trevor McCarthy was afraid of striking out, he wouldn’t have won his first race back in the saddle after five months on the sidelines because of a broken leg. He wouldn’t have been leading rider at Laurel Park last winter either.

If trainer Damon Dilodivico was afraid of striking out, his 8-year-old Immortal Eyes wouldn’t have won back-to-back stakes at Monmouth in July. He wouldn’t have known the old-timer still does have a lot of pep still in his step either.

If trainer Phil Schoenthal was afraid of striking out, his undefeated 2-year-old filly Miss Behaviour wouldn’t have won the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth on September 1. His other 2-year-old, Elevated wouldn’t be undefeated in two starts either.

If trainer Francis (Tres) Abbott was afraid of striking out, he wouldn’t have won his first graded stakes with Nellie Cashman, his long shot winner of the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs. He wouldn’t have proven that the Virginia Oaks win wasn’t a fluke after the filly won (but disappointingly was disqualified to third) the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga either.

…and if I was afraid of striking out, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to spend the summer at Saratoga writing for The Saratoga Special again and I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to work for a week in California for HRTV. You wouldn’t be reading this right now either.

Keep swinging.